Most people think of self-care as brushing their teeth, showering, etc. and yes, those things are important, but self-care goes beyond your basic hygiene habits. It includes activities, hobbies, and habits that help you destress and maintain good emotional and mental health. Sometimes known as “work-life balance.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than 50% of the population will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives. Even if you’re never diagnosed with an illness, stress can still affect you. The consequences of low or no self-care can be severe at times.
I’ve heard the stories many times – clients being referred to me when they’ve visited the ER thinking they were having a heart attack when really they were having a panic attack. Those are some of the more extreme cases but people can still be affected in their day-to-day life.
Lack of self-care can manifest in many different physical ways. Symptoms can include headaches, heart palpitations, over-eating, under-eating, upset stomach, forgetfulness, and brain fog to name a few. Plus, disorders like anxiety and panic can manifest from a lack of self-care.
It’s always good to see your primary physician to rule out any medical problems but if your doctor gives you a clean bill of health, then your symptoms may be due to poor emotional health due to stress, anxiety, or depression.
There are numerous activities or skills that fall under the umbrella of self-care but I like to break it down into three categories for my clients – mental, physical, and spiritual. The easier I can make it for people then the more likely they are to follow through and see quicker, positive results.
Mental self-care can be anything that helps you clear your head and de-stress. It’s important to address any emotional pain or issues and seek out counseling if needed. Your mind and body are connected and must both be taken care of for overall wellness.
Without addressing the underlying causes of emotional pain, you may not reap the full benefits from your self-care. Things to do to decrease your mental stress can include breathing exercises, journaling, or affirmations to name a few but the list is endless. Also, building your self-esteem and self-worth through mental self-care will help you develop emotional resiliency.
Physical self-care can include walking, yoga, biking, swimming, running, and eating healthy. It doesn’t matter what activity you do just that you find something that you enjoy! Remember, you don’t have to become a body-builder and work out for hours at the gym every day! Finding an activity that you enjoy will ensure you will stick with it.
Plus, your personal hygiene also falls under this category. Not only ensuring you maintain your daily hygiene habits but keeping up on doctor and dentist appointments plays a vital role in your overall health.
Poor physical health can cause a number of health problems including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. If you suffer from medical problems due to poor physical health, your emotional and mental health will suffer as well.
Spiritual self-care includes your faith practices such as prayer, church, bible study, or any time with God. 1 Corinthians 6:19 reminds us, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”
Practicing good spiritual self-care helps recalibrate our soul and reminds us to put God at the center of our lives. Get connected with a Bible study that not only helps with spiritual self-care but it connects you with a community of people and allows you to get social support that will help us mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Steps you can take to make self-care part of your daily life
It is easy to dismiss the notion of self-care due to lack of time, family commitments, and work demands but those are the exact reason that self-care needs to be part of your daily life.
Most people have flown in an airplane at some point in their lives and during the safety announcements, you will hear a flight attendant tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting someone else with theirs. The reason being is that if you are not taking care of yourself, it will be difficult to care for others.
I tell clients to start small. Old habits are hard to break and trying to find the time to incorporate more self-care into your life will take some time and adjusting. Start with baby steps and give yourself the grace to make mistakes as you’re learning.
Pay attention to how you feel mentally and physically as you increase your self-care to help you understand how it’s benefiting you. Keeping a log of what you’ve changed and how you feel will be beneficial.
Overall, remember that you are making lifestyle changes and it will take time. Trial and error is part of the process and you need to find what works best for you. Most of all remember you are worth it!
“For I know the plans for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
“Nourishment,” courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Self Care,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License